I visited Syria in 2009 as part of a month long trip through the Middle East. It stole my heart. Upon returning to Australia, I plotted ways to return, applying for positions with English schools and a place studying Arabic language at Damascus University. As much as I enjoyed the other areas of Syria I saw, it was Damascus that I was particularly eager to return to.
I dream of once more getting hopelessly lost in the ancient, labyrinthine Souq al Hamidiyah. I miss the bullet holes in the corrugated iron ceiling that twinkled like stars; a remanent of machine gun fire during the rebellion against the French in 1925.
I yearn for a visit to the famous Bakdash icecream store and the souq’s sweets section where I was treated to free samples of decorated nougat and tiny barazeq (sesame and pistachio) biscuits as I walked past, all given with smiles and no expectations.
And I hope one day I can once again visit the Grand Ummayyad Mosque and experience it for the first time as a practicing Muslim. I can only imagine how it would feel to sit after prayer and absorb the beauty and serenity of that building. I remember gazing through the archway leading into the spice section of the souq – it looked as if it lead to another exciting and exotic world.
Reconciling this city of my memories with the ones I am seeing in news programs in the past year is challenging. How many of the people did I meet, pass in the street, buy things from – have fallen victim to Assad’s regime? How many of them have been kidnapped, raped, tortured; murdered?
According to the UN’s sources, up to around 11,000 people have been murdered in the Syrian uprisings which began in late January 2011. That figure will no doubt have risen since the time it was released. To put that in perspective, the population of the suburb I live in is about 5,500. That is the equivalent of the entire population of two suburbs being raped, tortured and murdered, and that is without taking into account the many injured. Death tolls have risen as the uprisings intensify, with Homs currently bearing the brunt of it while larger cities Damascus and Aleppo take a back seat.
Without a doubt, Syria can now be classified as being amidst a full scale massacre. And yet despite the condemnations of powerful governments and organisations world over, there has been very little action. I am not an advocate of Western intervention, but considering the U.S.’s self-appointed role of ‘world police’, upholders of human rights and champions of Muslim women it is interesting to note that no serious move has been made to intervene. A country’s entitlement to their assistance seems to have a direct correlation with the amount of oil they possess. As for the UN, they have disappointed once more, doing nothing more for Syria than engaging in fruitless discussions and counting the dead.
The question must be asked of the Muslim ummah – where are you? Masha’Allah w’alhamdulilah Allah has blessed countries among us with abundant wealth, but where are they when their brothers and sisters need them? The problem is that while these countries may be ‘Muslim’ as a result of their populations, they are not ruled by Islam. Their own citizens are not being given the basic rights afforded to them by Islam, so under these conditions how can we expect them to extend a helping hand to Muslims elsewhere? These sentiments are at the heart of the Arab Spring and until the khilafah is re-established, obligations such as these will continue to fall by the wayside.
Our leaders are doing little to assist which leaves the individual wondering what they can do. My humble suggestions are to make du’a for the Syrians, educate yourself about the situation and use social media and other means to make people aware of what is happening in Syria. Also, support the Free Syrian Army and give and help raise money to support the 20,000 plus Syrian refugees who are barely surviving in overcrowded camps in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan. Most importantly, let us not forget that these are not strangers to us – they are our brothers and sisters in Islam.
“The similitude of believers in regard to mutual love, affection and compassion is that of one body; when any limb of it aches, the whole body aches, because of sleeplessness and fever.” – Sahih Muslim, Book 032, Number 6258
For those interested in giving sadaqa for the Syrian refugees in refugee camps, inshaAllah donations can be made at Islamic Relief and Human Appeal International and no doubt many other Islamic organisations worldwide. JazakAllah khair.